Brad Wills: Our goal is to minimise flexo waste

Brad Wills, global senior vice-president, MacDermid Graphics Solutions in conversation with PrintWeek

07 Feb 2022 | By PrintWeek Team

Brad Wills

PrintWeek (PW): Tough 18 months…
Brad Wills (BW):
In business, external factors, such as Covid, mean you must be ready to pivot if necessary. You can’t always do a “wait and see” if it changes. For MacDermid Graphics Solutions, that meant less international travel, and even less local travel and less face-to-face interaction. However, we pivoted quickly and used the technology available to continue to operate and fully serve our valued customers. 

PW: Your learnings from 2021...
We learned that we can do business virtually as well as in person. We prefer doing business by personal interaction with our customers and partners, but we are ready for what comes next, whether it is continued virtual business, fully in-person, or a hybrid of both. It also showed me that our employees are the true innovators. They figured out what works best and how to overcome in impressive and creative ways. Ideas and innovation do not always need to come from the top.

PW: How has your company and factory sites responded to the challenges of the Covid-19 era? Anything on the ideas front? Any new research or innovation?
We had business continuity plans in place at the start of Covid-19 in 2020. Our company adjusted to remote work for office workers when needed, but our laboratories and factories remained fully operational throughout 2020 and 2021. We added additional health and safety measures at our sites, and our office employees returned to the office as soon as it was safe for them to do so in their area.

PW: The pandemic has impacted India’s prospects to become a USD 5-trillion economy by FY25. However, has the last quarter numbers reposed faith in the Indian market?
MacDermid has always viewed India as a high-potential growth market for flexographic printing. Throughout the pandemic we continued to invest in the Indian market. The latest growth numbers further validate our focus in the market.

PW: Brands (FMCG and non-FMCG) are seeking more and more from print and packaging. As a global manufacturing brand, how can our industry cater to the new normal of - gaining speed; more flexibility; profit-centric approach; and lower carbon footprint?
MacDermid is fully focused on the future of flexographic printing. We continue to innovate with our photopolymer plates and develop platemaking equipment and systems for a more sustainable flexographic workflow. For example, our Lava thermal plate processing systems remove volatile organic compounds from the platemaking process. Beyond platemaking, we are working to create a circular economy for used plates. Our goal is to minimise flexo waste to a landfill.

PW: How should print adopt marketing strategies that promote the print brand beyond the function of product or services. One school of thought is, the key is to do more than just meet consumers’ immediate needs. What is your view?
I agree the consumers’ immediate needs are important, but their personal experience is what keeps them loyal to a brand or product.

MacDermid's manufacturing unit

PW: 77% of Indian consumers are actively engaging with sustainability. These consumers will invest time and money in companies that try to do good. Three sustainable actions you have undertaken in the past year that you can share with us?
MacDermid believes sustainability is a requirement of doing business, not just something to report on or “nice to do”. First, we joined the Holy Grail 2.0 in 2021, making us the only plate manufacturing member of this important initiative in Europe. We believe Holy Grail 2.0 will succeed in its goals and will lead to a global solution for a circular economy for plastic packaging.

PW: What were the other two sustainable actions?
The second action was that we continued to invest in an R&D project to keep used flexographic plates from the landfill or waste-to-energy schemes. Our investment in this project continues into 2021. And lastly, we’ve engineered our latest thermal processing system with more controls to reduce waste in the platemaking process.

PW: Is there a Green Gap between what our industry talks about; and the rest of society? For example, the industry uses terms like “biodegradable” and “circular economy”. How can we bridge the knowledge gap?
We must educate the consumer. I believe packaging has to be purposeful, protective, and educational at the same time. It’s a difficult task, but with more technology, like digital watermarks, or QR codes, we can find new ways to educate a user on how to dispose of packaging properly.

PW: Your plans for 2022?
022 is a big year for MacDermid Graphics Solutions. We are moving our global headquarters to a new location in Atlanta, GA USA; we are opening The Flexo Xperience Centre (The FXC) with a large number of global industry partners, and we are commissioning a new production line in Wigan, UK. We will also launch a new plate technology and a new plate processing equipment.

PW: One outrageous prediction for the year to come...
The Flexo Xperience Centre at MacDermid Graphics Solutions will move flexo forward.


  • How do you unwind?
    Get off reading and responding to emails and go for a run.
  • One piece of music you love?
    Old rock and roll music.
  • Three books by your bedside?
    The One Thing by Gary Keller; Out of the Pocket by Bill Konigsberg; and One World One Company by Fredrik Haren.
  • One thing about print you love to utter in a public forum?
    We must adapt, we must be creative and we must innovate.
  • Recent packaging innovation that impressed you?
    All things sustainable.
  • One tech-guru (past or present) you want to meet - and why?
    Steve Jobs. He could sell you something you didn’t know you needed or wanted.